Homemade Chili Oil: My All-Purpose Condiment

Homemade Chili Oil
Busy cooks know this: life is better and easier when you have a pantry full of things that keep for a long time without refrigeration and can be used in multiple ways at a moment’s notice. That is why this fragrant and fiery chili oil (not to be confused with nam prik pao) is always found in my pantry as well as the pantries* of my loved ones who are often gifted with a jar of it every now and then. We love it so.

Let’s be clear on one thing first, though: you’ll hardly ever see this condiment used in traditional Thai stir-fries, curries, soups, or salads. Even noodle shops in Thailand don’t usually have this available for you on the table as part of their seasoning caddy (on the other hand, you’ll see plain dried chili powder which is the norm). Chili oil is something you’ll most likely see at a Chinese restaurant. Continue reading

Spicy Fresh Tomato “Hell” Relish (น้ำพริกมะเขือเทศ)

Spicy Fresh Tomato Relish
A few weeks ago, I had a short conversation with @dawnwow on Twitter who said to me that she had always felt like pico de gallo was a flavor short of being Thai. I completely agreed with her. In fact, if you’re familiar with both Mexican and Thai cuisines, surely you’ve noticed some similarities as well (compare the roasted tomato sauce accompanying “crying tiger” in Simple Thai Food with roasted tomato salsa, for example).

That dialogue reminded me of a quick relish I frequently made when I was a new student in the US which, for some reason, I don’t make nearly as often any more. Back then, though, I practically lived on it. There would always be a batch in the refrigerator, ready to be used on anything I could afford to make or bring home. As a cash-challenged student, those things usually included a Thai omelet, some hard-boiled or medium-boiled eggs, or a store-bought rotisserie chicken one of which would last me for 3-4 days.

There were a small repertoire of quick, simple, affordable, and highly versatile dishes like this relish that saw me through those days when I had very little time and even less money. In many ways, I feel I owe my life to them. Continue reading

My Book – Simple Thai Food: Classic Recipes from the Thai Home Kitchen

Simple Thai Food by Leela Punyaratabandhu
Remember when the Zealous Water Buffalo told you many months ago that I was writing a book? Well, it’s done. Simple Thai Food: Classic Recipes from the Thai Home Kitchen won’t be available until around mid-May, but if you preorder it now, you will be among the first people to get it.

That’s not all, if you preorder the book now, you will be given access to a video tutorial on how to make red curry from scratch, from the homemade paste to the finished dish. I do not intend on making this video public on the blog or elsewhere, at least within the next year or so. So it will be available immediately to only the early birds among you and no one else. So, please be sure to keep the email confirmation from your bookseller of choice (Amazon, Barnes & Noble, IndieBound, iBooks, and Google Books) when you preorder.

You have until Thai New Year (April 13) to do so which is when I will tell you how to redeem your gift.

But first, let me tell you a bit about the book so you know what you’re investing in. In keeping with the theme of simplicity, I will sum up this book into one sentence. Continue reading

The Best Pumpkins to Use in Thai Cooking

Best Pumpkins to Use in Thai Cooking Plus Beef Massaman with Potimarron
I’ve long touted kabocha squash, a pumpkin/squash heavily used in Japanese and Korean cooking, as one of the best among the various types (commonly found in the United States) to use in Thai cooking. This is because its texture and flavor are very close to those of the type of pumpkin commonly used in Thailand. I still stand by my opinion.

However, as I was rereading my post on stir-fried pumpkin with eggs in which I describe kabocha as having chestnut-like qualities, it suddenly occurred to me that I had entirely forgotten about another type of pumpkin/squash that I like but, for some reason, have only used in ‘Western’ dishes: potimarron*.

With the ‘marron’ part (French for ‘chesnut’) staring at me in the face all these years, I don’t understand how I’d never made the connection until now. [See this post by David Lebovitz on Roasted Potimarron]. Continue reading

Vinegar with Pickled Chilies (น้ำส้มพริกดอง)

Vinegar with Pickled Chilies
To allow you to season your noodles to taste, noodle shops in Thailand always provide a seasoning caddy containing different condiments which they deem appropriate for the types of noodles which they offer. This is because most noodle dishes in Thailand are seasoned moderately when they leave the cook’s hand — it’s intentional — so that you can season your meal further to suit your taste. Vinegar with pickled chilies is almost always among these condiments which the people in Thailand consider essential to their noodle experience. Continue reading